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Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde): My hon. Friend will know that I was a member of Strathclyde regional council for almost10 years. I remember what happened in 1978--and we thought that they were bleak years. At that time, Scottish education was renowned the world over and we were praised for the standard that we achieved. We are on rocky ground after 16 years of Tory Government. Education resources are constantly eroded by the Government. The morality of the Government is now in deep question by the people who deliver educational services in Scotland.

Mr. Connarty: I agree with my hon. Friend, but I hold up one hope. I believe that we survived it. The innovation that I have seen in local government and in education over the past 16 or 17 years has been tremendous. It is not driven by the Government--in a sense people are showing innovation to prevent the damage that the Government wish to do. Education is hit hard because it is the largest and most labour-intensive part of a local authority budget. It is easy to pressure that budget by taking a few hundred thousand pounds out here and a few hundred thousand pounds out there. I know that every local authority is going through traumas in education at the moment because of the cut in the budget, because of local government reorganisation and because of the paltry sum given to them by the Secretary of State.

I believe that there is brainwashing: I think the Secretary of State and some of his colleagues were brainwashed when they went to St. Andrews. The political economy lecturers were Hayekians--now called the Austrian school--and they proselytised the theories of Hayek to their students. They were taken up by the Secretary of State and others. If one looks back at the so-called Thatcher years they were years when the Hayek model of the economy--a free market, deregulated economy--was to the fore.

There has been brainwashing, but it has been of Ministers and the Secretary of State--who has enthusiastically talked for that model. The past 17 years have shown that that model has denuded Britain of its ability to survive in the world, and reduced the capacity of the economy. We are now 35th in the league of investment in education and 18th in the prosperity league in the world. That is not something that happened because

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the world turned against us--it happened because those theories were carried to the extreme. It is not wrong to have a mix, but it was carried to the extreme--where only the free-market model was acceptable.

I do not believe that the aspiration of nursery education is to have, as the Secretary of State said, a system where some kind of overriding social strategy allows people to parachute in because they have a designated social need and take a place away from a local resident. We have to get the balance right. In Central region there have been revisions of the policy since the new councils came in and they are trying to get the balance correct between social need and the aspirations of local people. One should not be denied by the other.

Another point continually made by the Secretary of State and other Ministers is that we have a voucher system for training and it works. That is not true: we have a voucher system for training, but it does not work. I have spent 18 months studying the skill seekers programme and looking at the aspirations. The people who thought it up--I said this in the Scottish Grand Committee--said that it will work properly only if there is intermediate employment for people to train with their job. Training on its own will not create people who can get a job. We need to get the other half of the equation correct.

In Fast-trac we have a model that we can look at. Fife Enterprise has admitted that it does not have anything going for special educational needs. The Minister said that the nursery providers said that they can cope in the pilots with special educational needs with the funding that is available. That is not true because when we look at the needs of people post-school it is taking 40 per cent. of some skill seekers programme budgets to provide for the 15 per cent. of people who are designated as having special educational needs in some areas.

Mr. Raymonds Robertson rose--

Mr. Connarty: I will let the Minister intervene in a moment. I have been looking closely at the figures. In one local enterprise company area they aspired to have 1,000 people in the skill seekers programme with 52 per cent. of them in a job with training. When I inquired, they announced that they had reached the target--in fact, they were over it, with 56 per cent. of people in training. When I looked I found that the total number in the programme was not 1,000 but 700, so it was 56 per cent. of 700, not 56 per cent. of the 1,000 originally targeted. That is the picture throughout Scotland, apart from Grampian, which has been running the longest and has the most buoyant economy. I am not against the voucher system in training--it just needs to have Government input at the right resource level to provide jobs that people can then take their training into.

Mr. Robertson: I tried to intervene on the hon. Gentleman when he was talking about special educational needs. He has to be consistent in this. Ten minutes ago he was lecturing us and saying that local authorities knew best. Local authorities are now saying that they can cope with special educational needs and he is saying that they do not know what they are talking about.

Mr. Connarty: The simple thing for the Minister to look at is what it costs to look after one special

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educational needs pupil compared with a pupil in a standard secondary school. It costs £12,000 for a place in the school where I taught for 15 years and it costs an average of £3,000 for a secondary education place. The size of the budget disparity is enormous. I think that special educational needs will suffer. They will suffer because the Government aspire to give this voucher only to four-year-olds.

Every single authority that has looked seriously at a pre-five strategy--through the social work department, and the special educational needs provision, and the psychological services--is doing a complete screening of its younger people and is looking for people with special needs. Problems with dyslexia, dysphasia and minor cerebral palsy are being revealed in this screening. They are the people who are getting priority at the moment in local authority schemes.

If the Minister tells me that the Government will provide for every young person who comes through that screening with special educational needs the extra resources required so that they can start at the age of three or even earlier in home-based pre-school experiences he will at least have said something positive today. If he is not going to do that now, he can do it in his reply. We will need more than £1,100 if we are going to do that. The Government do not recognise that people are going for three-year-olds not just to win votes but because the earlier we intervene in the pre-school experience the better we can do what we intend to do.

As to the idea of regulating testing in secondary schools, the Minister's contention--he said it again earlier from a sedentary position--is that an S1-S2 national testing programme is the only way to get added value in S1 and S2. His mythological education authority in Tayside is not the same as the one that I have heard my colleagues from Tayside speak about. There are constant continual assessments as part of S1 and S2--some in the five-to-14 mode and some in the S1-S2 mode.

Teachers do not survive in the classroom if they do not conduct tests because they will have no information upon which to base further work with their pupils. As a former teacher, I am sure that the Minister tested his pupils regularly to see how well they were doing. The Government put about that mythology because they want to conduct a propaganda and an ideological battle. They do not want to accept that the five-to-14 programme has changed things fundamentally and that the S1 and S2 experience will continue to change for young people. The ethos in primary schools, using all the modes of five-to-14, will continue into S1 and S2.

The idea that any teacher could continue to teach for two years without assessing his or her pupils and using that assessment, as the Minister said, to diagnose their needs, to discover their weaknesses and provide educational experiences that will correct them is nonsense. A barrage of tests or a national testing programme has been put up only because the Secretary of State believes that there is some latent desire in the community for him to champion the idea of grading, setting and streaming. I do not think that there is that desire. I think that the Secretary of State will come a cropper, as he did--as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton pointed out--when he tried to do that in primary schools.

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In that case, the assessment examples were absorbed into local authorities and worked alongside their continuous assessment and testing programme. I watched that happen in the schools in which I taught and I watched it happen within education authorities that I knew very well. I hope that this mad, hare-brained idea will be absorbed into the continuous assessment programme of secondary schools in Scotland at S1 and S2 if there is some benefit to be gained from national test items.

The real question is how much longer the people of Scotland must suffer from the fanatical zealotry coming out of St. Andrews. That mad Hayekian model of the economy filtered through the Adam Smith Institute and into the heart and the mind of the Conservative party in Scotland. [Interruption.] The Under-Secretary of State says that he went to Glasgow, but he is obviously following in the footsteps of another influence. Perhaps he has not read Hayek--I do not know whether he has read any fundamental economic books. However, the Secretary of State has. He has published little articles for the Adam Smith Institute which show quite clearly where he is coming from--whether it is competitive tendering or the market for nursery vouchers. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton exposed the fact that the Secretary of State still aspires to a market for secondary education and higher education vouchers.

It is logical that we need a full partnership. It cannot be a bit of a partnership with the people whom the Government allow in and believe that they can work with; it must be a partnership with all those who care about, and have aspirations for, our children's future. I do not see any of that in the Bill. The Government have tried to slip in unnecessary and unwanted voucher and testing schemes in a Bill which just tinkers with school boards and pulls together the general aspiration to have one qualifications authority in Scotland. It is a shoddy piece of work. The Government have been found out and the Conservatives will lose the next election as a result.

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